Thursday, July 18, 2019

Book Review: Kill The Queen (Crown of Shards #1) by Jennifer Estep

Media Type: Print Book
Title: Kill The Queen
   * Series: Crown of Shards #1
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Pages: Paperback; 416
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love vivid characters, who actually grow during a story, and fast paced action!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.
This was pretty much a perfect book for me, dear friends. In fact, it was perfect to the point that my headphones died with only 3 minutes left to go in the audio version, and I audibly yelled at them. You know those endings that make you feel just a little more powerful, and all but push you into buying the next book in the series? That's Kill The Queen. Consider yourself warned that is one addictive read.

I can't praise Estep enough for the character that she's created in Evie. My favorite characters are always the ones who rise up from the ashes, reluctantly, and claim what is rightfully theirs. Friends, this is Evie through and through. Her persona at the beginning of the book was so much different from the one presented at the end of the book. However, at her core, she was still Evie. She was still kind, still always thinking of others, still full of quiet strength. I adored that she didn't completely morph but, instead, became the most powerful version of herself possible. I cheered for her. I cried for her. I was so in love with her character that I couldn't stand it. Remember how I said that I needed the next book in the series, stat? This is why.

That's not to say that the plot isn't absolutely excellent as well. In fact, the amount of tension that is slowly ramped up in this story is breathtaking. From the first line, I was hooked. Court intrigue, bloody coups, and the perfect amount of simmering possible romance touch each and everyone one of these pages. Between reading a print copy, and listening to the audio book, there were so many times that my hands were clenched and I was breathless with anticipation. Readers, you will find yourself so immersed in Evie's world, so a part of the little family that she finds for herself, that I promise you'll be reluctant to let go at the end. Thank goodness that there is another book, because I'm already missing my new friends.

Outstanding female relationships, realistic self growth, and perfectly tempered romances are just some of the wonderful things that you'll find within these pages. If you love Fantasy, and are looking for something new to get lost in that already has a sequel out, Kill The Queen needs to be next on your list. I loved this book so very much. Time to see what happens next!

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway: Summer Bucket List by T.K. Rapp

Happy Tuesday friends. What could be better than a sweet summer romance to kick off the week? This new release is sure to spark your teenage angst and swoon worthy feelings. Don't forget to enter the giveaway! You won't want to miss this. Review coming soon! 

Summer Bucket List
T.K. Rapp
Publication date: July 15th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Recently graduated from high school, Holland Monroe had no expectations for her last summer before heading off to college to be anything but ordinary.
Until she got a job as a waitress at the local country club to make extra money for school.
Milo Davis was smart, cute, and absolutely not interested in Holland. At least that was what she believed. But the day she started working at the restaurant, everything changed.
Finally together, they were left with only three months to spend time together before she moved away.
Good thing they decided to make their time as memorable as possible.
But will they remain friends? Or will checking off items on their summer bucket list lead them to something they didn’t expect — Falling in love.

“Have you ever gone swimming at night?” he asked.

Slowly I shook my head and looked over at him. All my fears, real and completely irrational, were beginning to choke me.

“No.” It was the only thing I was able to eke out.

“You don’t like it,” he questioned, but it was more of an observation.

“I’m terrified,” I admitted.

“But you can swim, right?”

I laughed, thankful he had lightened the mood. I nodded and turned my attention toward the dark abyss in front of me.

“What scares you?”

“Whatever might be in the water. Like the Loch Ness Monster.”

Milo laughed and reached for my hand. “Not real.”

“I know that,” I scoffed. “Doesn’t make me any less scared.”

“I’ll protect you.”

Milo opened his door, and reluctantly I opened my own. As I stepped out of the car I felt the fear travel up my spine, but I wanted to overcome it. He stood at the front of his car and waited for me to join him. Every step I took toward Milo felt heavier than the last until I finally reached him. He took my hand in his and carried a large backpack over his other shoulder.

“What’s the bag for? Are you going to kill me?”

Milo threw his head back and laughed hard. “You’re awesome. And no. It’s towels and some snacks.”

“Why night swimming? Isn’t it dangerous?”

“Well yeah…that’s why it’s the perfect date,” he answered.

My stomach flipped, and not because he was holding my hand. I found my nerves were working overtime and a flood of possibilities came to mind.

“Doesn’t sound so perfect.”

“Trust me,” he said as we continued to walk.

When we got to the shore, the water looked like glass, barely a breeze to make the surface move. Milo spread out a large blanket and set the backpack on top of it while I looked out at the horizon. In the distance, I could see the lights shining from homes across the way. The lake had few public spots that were accessible, and the park always closed at ten. I glanced at my watch and sighed because it was only eight. We had plenty of time to drown before anyone found us.

Milo pulled off his T-shirt and tossed it to the side by the bag. I tried not to look, but when I was caught staring at his stomach, I was thankful for the moonlit darkness.

“Are you going to get in?” he asked.

“I’m not sure.”

I figured he would be frustrated or that he would sulk because I didn’t jump at the chance to go with him. Instead, he walked over and kissed my cheek before walking toward the water.

As he took his first steps into the inky darkness, I watched his figure, admiring the way the moon illuminated his physique. Milo was not one to show off the muscles that he wore beneath his clothing, but they were on full display for me. I wanted so badly to follow him and let go of my fears, but all I could think of were the wild creatures that I saw in movies.

“It’s a little chilly,” he said as he stood waist deep, looking back at me.

“Not helping,” I laughed.

“Not trying to,” he answered with a chuckle.

I grabbed one of the towels that he had set out and opened it up so I could sit down. The warm air covered my body and I started to sweat. Maybe I was sweating because I was nervous, but whatever the reason I began to grow increasingly warm. Milo was still walking deeper into the water when I took off my cover-up, revealing my black bikini.

“Grow up,” I muttered to myself, hoping to gain some courage.

“How you doin’ over there?” Milo asked from the water.

“Great,” I said unconvincingly before laughing softly. “How ‘bout you?”

“Not too bad.”

His body disappeared beneath the water and I watched, waiting for him to come to the surface. When he didn’t come up right away, I sat up a little taller to see if there were any ripples in the water. Panic began to course through my veins and I started to get up as I searched for him in the darkness.

“Milo?” I called out, trying to contain my fear.

I walked toward the shoreline, the water lapping at my feet. Just as I started to take a step in, he surfaced with a loud splash.

T.K. Rapp is a Texas girl born and raised. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from Texas A&M and it was there that she met the love of her life. He had a contract with the U.S. Navy that would take them across both coasts, and ultimately land them back home in Texas.
Upon finally settling in Texas, T.K. worked as a graphic designer and photographer for the family business that her mom started years earlier. She was able to infuse her creativity and passion, into something she enjoyed, but something was still missing. There was a voice in the back of her head that told her to write, so write, she did. And, somewhere on an external hard drive, are several stories she started and never finished.
Now at home, raising her two daughters, T.K. has more time to do the things she loves, which includes photography and writing. When she's not doing one of those, she can be found with her family, which keeps her busy, hanging with family and friends, and mostly relaxing. She is a lover of raunchy humor, gossip blogs and a good books.

Monday, July 15, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (7/15/19)

It is Monday once again friends, and hopefully it's treating you kindly.

I apologize for being so scarce around here lately. I was burnt out, I went on vacation and had a blast, and then I came back and I still can't seem to get back into the groove of things. Trust me, I'm trying! It's just going slower than I'd like. So if you see a bunch of pre-made posts for a bit, that's why. Thanks in advance for cutting me some slack.

That being said, I've started reading in earnest again and I am actually excited to share with you what I've been tackling. So here we go!

Last week I powered my way through The Ballad of Black Tom when my phone reminded me that it was due back to the library at the end of the day. Hahaha. Luckily this was a novella, AND it was a stellar read. I love when shorter stories pack a punch, and this one does that in spades. Dark, gritty, full of atmosphere, and all kinds of fun to read. Pick this up if you love underdog characters getting their due.

Last week I also finished Dead Man's Song by Jonathan Maberry, the second book in the Pine Deep series. This was my audio book while I was flying between CA and NY, and then back again, and it was a great listen! I admit that this second book was a little slower than the first one but, thankfully, the tension ramps up in the middle in the best way possible. I finished this book and immediately borrowed the next one. It was too good to pass up.

Whew, this book. I was so excited to read The Grand Dark that I audibly squealed when I found out that I got approved for it. I love dark, mysterious reads and Richard Kadrey is such a great world building author. I am loving every minute of this book, and how immersive it is. Alas, because it is lengthy, I've had to set it aside a few times for promised review books. Soon though, soon I'll be able to devote myself just to this. I'm so ready.

I'm also so excited to be reading Fortuna Sworn by K.J. Sutton. I LOVE Sutton's writing. All of it. This book is outside of what she normally writes, and yet I love it even more for that. This is the world of Fae that I love. Dangerous, glittering, full of violence and beauty in equal measures. Fortuna is my new favorite girl, and I can't wait to see how the ending of this plays out.

Next up is Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep, which I'm so stoked for! I've been on a YA hiatus on purpose these last two months. I needed more strong women, but I've kind of been missing Fantasy. I'm  hoping that this scratches that itch. I have the second book in the series for review too, so I can't wait!

That's it for me this week!
What are you reading?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Book Review: Storm Blown by Nick Courage

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Storm Blown
Author: Nick Courage
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: Hardcover; 352
Release Date: July 16, 2019
Source: Publisher
Content Screening: Mild Injuries / Tense Situations

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who are looking for an extremely well written look at hurricanes, and the ways that they affect people and animals.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
A major hurricane is raging across the southern United States, and two unsuspecting kids are about to have the adventure of a lifetime! Perfect for kids who love high-stakes plots and natural disaster movies, and anyone interested in extreme weather!

A little rain and wind don't worry Alejo--they're just part of life at the beach. As his padrino says, as long as there are birds in the waves, it's safe. When people start evacuating, though, Alejo realizes things might be worse than he thought. And they are. A hurricane is headed straight for Puerto Rico.

Emily's brother, Elliot, has been really sick. He can't go outside their New Orleans home, so Emily decides to have an adventure for him. She's on a secret mission to the tiny island Elliot loves. She's not expecting to meet up with an injured goose or a shy turtle. And nothing has prepared her for Megastorm Valerie. Soon Alejo and Emily will be in Valerie's deadly path. Who will survive?
Where was a book like this when I was a middle grade reader because, wow, this was an adventure and a half! Natural disasters have always fascinated me. I think it was that if I knew more about them, they were less scary. Or, well, maybe the same amount of scary but I at least felt informed. Either way, I would have loved reading Storm Blown as a young reader. As it stands, I loved it a whole lot as an adult reader as well.

Nick Courage pits a whole cast of characters against the might of Megastorm Valerie. I could only watch in mixed parts horror and awe as the storm raged, and lives were put in the way of it. I loved how Courage doesn't just show how storms of this magnitude affect people and their cities, but also how they affect animals in their wake as well. It was also so refreshing to see people making realistic decisions because, as we all well know, people don't always evacuate when they're told to. Those decisions, and the consequences that came along with them, were half of the draw of this book. It's not hard to love characters when they feel like real people that you'd honestly be worried about.

As for the plot, well it flies by so quickly that there isn't time to blink. Courage manages to ratchet up the tension, without making things too scary for the younger set of readers that might pick up this book. That's not to say that there aren't times were things feel a bit dire. The end of this book had me so tense that I thought I might fall of the bus seat I was sitting on. However there's always a little inkling of hope. Just enough to keep you rooting for the character, person or animal, and hope that they come through everything okay. I teared up at the ending of this book y'all, and I make no apologies for it.

The science of storms is well mapped out in this book, for sure. If you've ever been interested at all in how megastorms develop, or the type of damage that they can cause, this is absolutely a story that you'll love. It's nice to be reminded that the majesty of nature contains things that are infinitely beautiful, and also absolutely terrifying. It's that balance between the two that makes living on our planet such an amazing experience.

Read this! Read it with your young reader and discuss it, read it by yourself, or read it with a book group. Trust me, you won't be sorry. This story is exciting, and also timely I think. As our climate changes, and storms like this become more normal, I think they need this kind of discussion. I honestly hope to see more from Nick Courage very soon.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Book Review: Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Storm and Fury
   * Series: The Harbinger #1
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Pages: Hardcover; 512
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Source: Publisher / TLC Book Tours
Content Screening: Mild Violence; Sexual Content

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Everyone! I'd never read the series this is a spin-off of, and it held up perfectly as a standalone!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…
Oh, wow. Friends, I went on a two week hiatus from reading. Between traveling, being in a wedding, and then sightseeing around Manhattan, I didn't touch a book for two straight weeks. So you can imagine how nervous I was to come back and pick up this tome of a book. 512 pages is not a light read, and I hoped so much that I would end up falling in love with Armentrout's story. Honestly, I shouldn't have worried. I've never read the series that this is a spin-off of. I've never met a Warden before this book, or been introduced to any of the characters. None of that mattered. This book was an instant hit, and 512 pages flew by like it was nothing. To say that I was pleased that this was my first read after a hiatus? Well, that's an understatement. Storm and Fury was an absolute delight to read.

First off, I have to give so much love to Trinity as our main character. Lady leads are hard for me sometimes, particularly in Fantasy books, because I expect so much from them in the growth department. Again, I really shouldn't have worried. Trinity is instantly likable, and relatable, because she's any of us at eighteen years old. She has crushes, worries about friendships, and puts herself in questionable situations. The fact that she just so happens to have special abilities that cause her to be protected at all costs? Well, that's the icing on the cake. Even in the midst of being squashed down by those who thought they were protecting her, Trinity was brilliant. She was bold, brave, and full of so much inner light. I especially liked how Armentrout gave Trinity retinitis pigmentosa, but didn't use it to define her. If anything, Trinity was more because of her RP, and it was fabulous.

That's not to say that the other characters in this book are ever outshone by Trinity. Misha and Zayne had their own distinct personalities and, even though I was meeting him them for the first time, even Roth and Layla were stunningly written. I do understand why a lot of reviewers said that they felt like they were missing some previous information, but that didn't deter me in the least. This book is written in a way that still gives the reader plenty of information about the characters who came from the first series. Roth was still full of swagger and sass, as I've been told he should have been. If I missed a little of who he was, all that did was give me an incentive to go back and read the first series. Not a problem, at all. This is a solid standalone.

Add in the facts that the plot moves at a manic pace, there's sweet and sexy scenes in here, and the fight scenes are to die for, and you have my heart. I didn't give this a full five star rating, only because there were some dialogue scenes that dragged on a little longer than I wanted, but overall this was a fantastic read. Zayne and Trinity have my attention! I'm not only planning on going back and reading the books this came from, but I'm definitely planning on reading the next one of these as well. So much fun! An excellent book to start my reading back up with after a long time away!

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway: She's a Spitfire by Chloe Liese

Title: She’s a Spitfire
Author: Chloe Liese
 Series: (Tough Love #2)
Publication date: June 24th 2019
Pages: Paperback; 263
Release Date: June 24, 2019
Source: Xpresso Tours / Author
Content Screening: Mild Violence, Adult Language

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy reading about passionate relationships with a side of mysterious trouble.

Add It: Goodreads / Amazon
One fiery-haired, sexy scientist finds her perfect complement in a dark and handsome soccer star. Opposites attract, and they’ve got chemistry that’s explosive—literally.
Physics calls it entropy. Philosophy calls it Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, eventually it will. Professionally and personally speaking, Zed’s familiar with the principle. After a decade of trying to alter the atomic makeup of the mafia from its nucleus, now he’s set on leaving The Life and pursuing his heart. Problem is, the sassy, hot-headed spitfire he can’t quit is meddling in his slow burn escape plan, and turning it into full-on combustion.
Not to mention, Nairne’s got a painful history she won’t talk about and more secrets than she has lab instruments—which is really saying something. In an ideal world, the bad boy footballer would follow the brainy beauty overseas and they’d live happily ever after. But Murphy’s Law is proven true, as Zed finds his world imploding and his escape plan foiled. These enemies turned lovers end up discovering how costly it can be to meet the right person at the wrong time.
A present he can’t escape.
A past she can’t forget.
A future they won’t stop fighting for.
They say all’s fair in love…and war.
Book Two in the Tough Love Series—an enemies to lovers, suspenseful romance, full of sexy Italians, feisty heroines, globe-trotting action, and an ending that’ll both satisfy you and leave you ready for more!
This story picks up right where He's a Brute left off, so make sure you read that one first. The history of Zed and Nairne's dynamic is important to the story. Full disclosure, I didn't read book 1 first and that may have skewed my enjoyment of She's a Spitfire a bit. I did go back and read it and it helped me enjoy/forgive some aspects that I didn't initially like. This review is my thoughts having read both books now.

I have to say I really enjoy Nairne as a character. She is smart, feisty, determined, loyal, and doesn't take shit from anyone. Even in the face of thinly veiled threats she manages to let Zed know that she cares. Nairne knows what she is and isn't capable of and doesn't let that stop her from enjoying her life and following her dreams. She is the epitome of handicapable.

Elodie is one of my favorite sidekicks. Not only does she fiercely protect her best friend, she also calls her out when she's being unreasonable. Best friends need to call you out on your shit and know you'll be friends afterwards. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Nairne and Elodie and I think it was very well written.

Zed is not my favorite person. Despite his deep devotion and moral compass I just can't get behind how he talks to Nairne. I understand it's part of their dynamic and they enjoy each other but it is definitely not my cup of tea. To each their own.

Overall I did enjoy the twists and turns of this suspenseful story. It was a fun exhilarating journey with two people who love to hate each other. Zed and Nairne's passion for each other and for life is enough of a story, add in some mafia ties and a stalker and things get heated pretty quickly. I recommend this book if you don't mind some crass language and some very stubborn main characters. 

Chloe’s always been a sucker for a suspenseful steamy romance, ever since she managed to find the one saucy mystery series hiding in her high school’s prim little library. Nothing drives her crazier than a story that cranks up the heat, then closes the door on the reader’s face, so don’t read her books if you don’t want to know what actually happens when the lights fade to black…
When she’s not writing, Chloe’s busy reading books of all genres, rereading Harry Potter (which she can’t help but make her characters similarly obsessed over), and playing catch-up with her bad@$$ little girls. She’s also been known to scramble around the pitch for a pick-up soccer match and run along the river while dreaming up her next book.


FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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